What’s in a Name?

www.Internet Domain Name Hacks.com.au

Searching online for Nissan’s newest range of Patrols (or 370Zs, if you’re a dreamer like me) can be quite tricky without the help of a search engine, because typing “www.nissan.com” into your browser’s domain bar will take you to the website of a computer repairs business run by North Carolina resident Uzi Nissan – not Nissan Motors.

Being allocated on a ‘first in, best dressed’ basis, there has always been a war over internet domain names. But with the dominance of online marketing today, an effective – and registered – domain name has never been more important.


Why are Domain Names So Important?

A domain name is the unique identity of your website. It cannot be copied by anyone, regardless of where they live or what business they run. There are a few obvious advantages to having an online presence for your business, but a registered domain name, particularly a good one, can bring about several benefits:

  1. Higher ‘click’ rates. A UK study in 2009 found that a ‘product-matched’ domain name (electricbicycles.co.uk) brought in 105% more clicks than a ‘branded’ domain name that had nothing to do with the product (inahurry.co.uk). Product-matched domain names today are always among the first to be snatched up within an industry. This is because prospective customers search for products – not company names – and they don’t need to know the name of a business until after they know what they’re purchasing.
  2. Increased customer trust. A domain name is a validation for visitors that you own the website, so purchasing and registering a name that generates trust and confidence in customers is worth the spare change. A registered domain name will be short and sharp, like www.yourbusiness.com.au, however a free and unregistered domain name will look something like: www.yourbusiness.com.au/-yourbusiness and will generally be avoided. If your website is generic and shady, potential customers might think your products are generic and shady too.
  3. More visibility. Your website will find itself at the top of the search engine results if keywords in the search bar match up with your domain name. Search engines can also recognise if your website is sharing a domain with another website and will be more likely to relegate it down the results list.
  4. Opportunity to expand. Registering a domain name does more than call ‘dibs’; it allows you to pop an extension onto the domain name for any new webpage you create, or redirect traffic amongst your own pages if need be. This creates uniformity in your online presence, further increasing awareness of your brand.


Threat to Your Perfect Business Name #1: Competing Businesses

Of course, there can only be so many short, product-matched domain names in any one industry, so competition over the best names is common.

Like electricbicycles.co.uk in the example above, a domain name that matches a product will be desired by all competitors selling that product – even where those competitors’ business names are diverse. Just this year, two different producers of fly screens went to a tribunal over the domain name buggoffscreens.com.au.

If you feel you have the right to have a registered domain name transferred to you, a complaint under the .au Dispute Resolution Policy (auDRP) is the way to go. Court action may also be available, but is a much more expensive and time-consuming way to arrive at a similar destination.

So how do you successfully make out a complaint under the auDRP? You need to be able to show 3 things:

  1. The domain name in question is identical, or ‘confusingly similar’, to a name in which you or your business has rights (such as a trade mark right);
  2. The respondent has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name, and
  3. The domain name was registered or subsequently used in bad faith.

The auDRP can cover a wide variety of illegitimate conduct, such as using a domain name to redirect web traffic away from a complainant’s website, or tricking customers into thinking that advertised goods or services are associated with that of the complainant. However, satisfying all three elements can be very difficult – especially against a competitor who simply registered the domain name before you had a chance.


Threat to Your Perfect Business Name #2: Cybersquatters

‘Cybersquatting’ is the practice of purchasing a domain name in advance, then selling it to a rightful owner for profit. You may have heard of a Mr Mike Rowe, who registered mikerowesoft.com and sold it to Microsoft for $10,000, or maybe the One in a Million case, in which the defendant had attempted to sell various domain names including macdonalds.com, spicegirls.com and buckinghampalace.org for (in some cases) upwards of £4,000.

More relevantly, ‘cybersquatters’ also advance purchase domain names that are likely to be desired by certain businesses, such as common proper nouns or randomised 3-letter acronyms. This is how the majority of cybersquatting activity takes place today.

Cybersquatting is illegal, but many people remain unaware and pay a ransom to retrieve the rights to domain names. Taking legal action against a cybersquatter under the auDRP is a good option, but can still prove to be frustratingly time consuming and expensive. A good defence, such as registering your desired domain name as soon as you can, is certainly the best offence.


Registering Your Domain Name

Luckily, thinking of a good domain name is much more difficult than registering it. The .au Domain Administration website (auda.org.au) has all the information you need to register a new domain name or renew an existing one. A small fee is involved, but as you can see, it is a worthy investment.


By Tristan White, Paralegal, Atticus Lawyers & Advisors.

If you would like further information about anything discussed in this article, please contact our office on (03) 8692 7520.